Northern Ireland

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NI doctors leader urges politicians to end stop start decision making

British Medical Association [BMA] Northern Ireland Chair Dr John D Woods has called on the local politicians to end ‘stop-start’ decision making and work together to address the problems within Northern Ireland’s healthcare system.  

Speaking today [Wednesday 28 June] at the BMA’s annual conference which is taking place in Bournemouth this week, Dr Woods said the problems healthcare in Northern Ireland faced today were the same as when he addressed the conference in 2015 and 2016, “All the issues and problems in Northern Ireland I have highlighted previously are the same problems we face today – a political crisis, rising waiting lists, inadequate funding.”

He went on to cite the continual changes in health minister as one of the reasons for the ‘dysfunction’ in the health system, “From June 2015, we have had three health ministers in post - roughly a new minister every year. This lack of continuity is partly responsible for the dysfunction we see in our health system.”

Dr Woods then went on to speak about health transformation and the Bengoa report, “Last year I spoke with optimism about a ‘blueprint’ for reconfiguring our health system, the much anticipated Bengoa Report. 

“Last autumn Professor Bengoa published his analysis. It outlined clearly the problems we face in Northern Ireland. In his words we are standing on a burning platform, a system which has to change or it will collapse. 

Northern Ireland has produced a plethora of reports into its health service, but has comprehensively failed to take much of the advice on board. 

“Bengoa recognised that services just can’t be removed. Maintaining public trust is critical for the success of transformation. Patients have no confidence in the failed model of reconfiguration by collapse. When any patient service is removed a safe, superior alternative must be put in place first. 

“No-where is this more stark than in the crisis faced by primary care. Practices are collapsing but because of lack of a Health Minister we have no rescue plan for General Practice in Northern Ireland. Rather practice funding is being withdrawn. Northern Ireland needs a funded rescue plan for General Practice put in place now. 

“Our junior doctors are facing increasing rota gaps, consultant vacancies are impacting on care, and general practice is struggling to recruit and retain doctors. 

“We cannot do any of this with stop-start decision making. We need our politicians to get back round the table now. To work together, and to work with us. To make sure we can all deliver the high quality health system we aspire to." 

Dr Woods was speaking ahead of debates at the ARM in support of GPs in Northern Ireland, service reconfiguration and workforce planning. 


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